“Violence is one of the most fun things to watch.”
– Quentin Tarantino, motion picture screenwriter and director.
We have a strong hunch that Quirky Quentin wasn’t talking horses
when he said, “Violence is one of the most fun things to watch,” but fun
certainly is in store for Gulfstream fans at Gulfstream Park on
Saturday, Feb. 23, when trainer Todd Pletcher sends Violence to the
racetrack to run in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2).
The undefeated 3-year-old colt is expected to be heavily favored to
capture the major prep for the $1 million Besilu Florida Derby (G1) at
Gulfstream on March 30 and is a leading prospect for the Kentucky Derby
(G1) at Churchill Downs on May 4.
Violence seems to have everything going for him: a strong pedigree,
the most successful trainer in racing, abundant talent and an obvious
will to win no matter where he runs.
The son of Medaglia d’Oro, who was purchased by Black Rock
Thoroughbreds for $600,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling
sale, won at first asking last August at Saratoga. Despite a tardy start
and getting bumped in the stretch, Violence got up to win the
seven-furlong race by a neck over next-out winner Titletown Five.
Jumping directly to stakes company for his second start in November, he
successfully stretched out to a mile with a two-length victory in the
Nashua (G2). It was his third start, though, that made Violence such an
exciting prospect for Gulfstream’s 3-year-old stakes program and,
ultimately, the Kentucky Derby.
Flown cross-country to run in the CashCall Futurity (G1) over the
synthetic racing surface at Hollywood Park on Dec. 15, Violence closed
from mid-pack to score by 1 ¼ lengths in his first start around two
“He handled it so well – running on the different track, the
synthetic track, and traveling from East Coast to West Coast,” said
Javier Castellano, Gulfstream Park’s leading jockey. “He keeps better
and better. He has a mature mind. He does things the right way.”
A lot of new experiences faced Violence in the CashCall Futurity,
but Pletcher was confident that the 1 1/16-mile stakes was the right fit
for the Kentucky-bred colt.
“The main thing was the timing was good. We felt like the track at
Hollywood Park, although it is a synthetic track, plays more like dirt
than most of them. So we felt it was a little less risky than running on
another synthetic track,” Pletcher said. “It worked out well and he
handled it great.”
Violence has been training sharply for Pletcher at Palm Meadows,
Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Boynton Beach in
preparation for his 2013 debut in the Fountain of Youth.
“Violence is doing really well. We shipped him to Palm Meadows right
after he won the CashCall Futurity. So far everything has gone
according to plan and we’ve been focused on the Fountain of Youth as his
first start back,” said Pletcher, who is well on his way to clinching
his 10th consecutive training title at Gulfstream.
The Fountain of Youth has also been the goal for trainer Eddie
Kenneally's Majestic Hussar, a promising son of Majestic Warrior who
registered a front-running 2 ¼ -length triumph over the Pletcher-trained
Palace Malice in a seven-furlong allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 19.
“He’s a fast horse. We’ll be stretching him out for the first time
in the Fountain of Youth. We don’t really know how that’s going to go
yet. He’s a very good sprinter. We don’t know if he wants to go long or
not, but we’ll find out and learn a lot in the Fountain of Youth,”
Kenneally said. “He hasn’t done anything like this yet and two turns is a
totally different race. In sprints, he shows speed, so I’ll assume he
wants to show speed in a long race. I think that’s going to be his
running style, and I don’t think we want to take that away from him.”
While Majestic Hussar figures to be one of the top contenders in the
Fountain of Youth, Pletcher doesn’t think his presence will pose a
problem for Violence, strategy-wise.
“He’s very tractable. He’s been close to the pace when we’ve needed
him to be and he settles when we’ve needed him to be.” Pletcher said.
“He’s very versatile and we’re going to play out the pace scenario and
see how quick Majestic Hussar and anyone else is going. He’s the kind of
horse that won’t let anyone sneak away to an easy lead and he’s kind
enough that he’ll rate well also.”
Pletcher has saddled two Fountain of Youth winners, Eskendereya in
2010 and Scat Daddy in 2007. Eskendereya went on to win the Wood
Memorial (G1) to earn likely favoritism in the Kentucky Derby, only to
be scratched less than a week before the Run for the Roses. Scat Daddy
followed up with a triumph in the Florida Derby (G1) before finishing
off the board in the Kentucky Derby.
Violence is hardly Pletcher’s only hope for a second victory in the
Run for the Roses. The five-time Eclipse Award winner has several
prominent Triple Crown candidates, most notably Shanghai Bobby, the 2012
juvenile Eclipse Award winner who suffered his first loss in a
second-place finish behind Itsmyluckyday in the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3)
at Gulfstream on Jan. 26.
"I thought he ran super. Unfortunately, Itsmyluckyday ran just a
little bit better. I thought it was a great effort first time off the
layoff and we’re sticking to our original plan of going to the Florida
Derby,” Pletcher said.
Although he has yet to make his stakes debut, the Pletcher-trained
Verrazano was recently favored in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby future
wagering. The son of More Than Ready made his debut at Gulfstream on
Jan. 1 with a 7 ¾ -length victory, which he followed up with a 16 ¾
-length triumph on Feb. 2.
“We’re leaning towards his next start in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Spacing-wise, running on March 9 after his February race, is good
timing,” said the 45-year-old Dallas native. “It gives him five weeks
rest after his very fast race. It could put him in position to either
run in the Florida Derby or something like the Wood Memorial.”
Revolutionary made an impressive recovery from a very troubled trip to
eke out a victory in the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct on Feb.2, giving
Pletcher another strong prospect.
“He overcame a lot of adversity. I was proud of him for that,”
Pletcher said. “It wasn’t the smoothest trip, but unfortunately, he
created some of that on his own when he didn’t break well. That’s
something that’s been his Achilles Heel so far in most of his races.
He’s just not quick away from the gate. But he came out of it well.”